Friday, December 25, 2009

Conservation: Tomb of Tutankhamun

Heritage Key (Sean Williams)

An older story, but I managed to miss it somehow.

The tomb of Tutankhamun is one of the world's most famous ancient spots. Yet spots are precisely what are causing the decay of its beautiful wall paintings. The US-based Getty Conservation Institute have been drafted in to help mend the murals, but have been finding it an uphill struggle in the face of fierce desert weather and the onslaught of eager tourists.

Dr Zahi Hawass, Egypt's antiquities chief, has long bemoaned the damage tourists are doing to tombs at the Valley of the Kings; the necropolis of ancient Thebes near modern Luxor. Dr Hawass has even mooted the idea of a replica Tut's tomb to cater for a burgeoning demand for the boy-king. Whether tourists will be satisfied without a trip to the real thing is debatable to say the least (have you say here).

And our composite picture (below), combining an original snap from Harry Burton and a recent shot by Sandro Vannini, clearly shows the brown spots have been in the tomb since Carter and Carnarvon first burst in over 80 years ago. So how much of its deterioration is due to tourism? Getty spokesperson Melissa Abraham tells us: "(The brown spots) have indeed been there since the tomb was discovered, and have never properly been analyzed, so that will be part of the GCI's task. The visitor impact on the site is a separate issue that also will be looked at."

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